Attachment The Attachment Theory John Bowlby with Mary Ainsworth
John Bowlby • Born February 26, 1907 in London to an upper-class English family • The fourth of six children, he was raised by a nanny as was customary at this time. His mother, though present, had little to do with the raising of him and her other children. • As a result, the young Bowlby developed a relationship with his nanny much like that of a son and his mother. • At four years old, his beloved nanny was sent away from a family. Bowbly considered this to be like the loss of a mother. • Sent to boarding school at the age of seven he suffered terribly throughout his initial boarding school years. As a result of this, Bowlby developed a great sensitivity to the suffering of children.
He studied psychology and pre-clinical sciences at Trinity College in Cambridge and by the age of 26 had qualified in medicine from the University College Hospital in London. • Following his medical degree he trained in psychiatry and by aged 30 was a qualified psychoanalyst. • Having worked with maladjusted and delinquent children during his studies, he was then given an opportunity to further observe the separation of children from their families throughout the events of WWII. • Rescue of Jewish children, wartime evacuation of children throughout Britain, growing number of orphans, etc. • Developed a fascination with the consequences of separation on a child, and the biological patterns of attachment through the basis of Ethology. • In 1948, the World Health Organization commissioned Bowlby to pull together the research evidence on institutional deprivation. • Gained wide recognition when he collaborated with a coworker, James Robertson in the documentary A Two-Year Old Goes to the Hospital. • The film is about a two year old girl who experiences an eight day period of separation from her parents when admitted to the hospital. It documents the impact of maternal deprivation on children when separated from their primary caregivers. • Eventually developed his “Attachment Theory” which was furthered by the studies of Mary Ainsworth
Ethology “A main reason for valuing ethology is that it provides a wide range of new concepts to try out in our theorizing. Many of them are concerned with the formation of intimate social bonds…Others are concerned with conflict behavior and ‘displacement activity; others again with the development of pathological fixations. Ethological data and concepts are therefore concerned with phenomena at least comparable to those we as analysts try to understand in man.” • Field in biology that studies animal behavior from an evolutionary perspective. • Engages in naturalistic observation— instead of data obtained in the treatment of patients, observations of the behavior in real-life situations. • Focuses on the theory that some neurotic tendencies and personality deviations stem from early years and may be understood as due to disturbances in the bio-psychological processes.
After his studies with orphaned children and hospitalized infants who had little personal interaction with a caretaker, he observed that this resulted in extreme emotional anxiety and distress. The child seemed to plunge into a “state of mourning” • As a result, began to study the “attachment behaviors” of infants. Bowlby believed that much like animals, human infants have signals or imprinting behavior that when displayed, prompt the attention and emotional affirmation of their parents. • The cry is a distress call. When an infant is in pain or frightened, they cry and the parent is impelled to rush over to see what is wrong. • When a baby smiles into a parent’s eyes, the parent feels a surge of love for the baby and wants to be close. • Rather than simple being “babyish”, the child engages in natural behaviors that have ensured safety and security to young humans for millions of years. • “If despite the child’s efforts, he cannot regain contact with the parent, the child’s anxiety becomes intense. On some level, the child may feel he will die.” Attachment Attachment Theory
Mary D.S. Ainsworth (1913-1999) grew up in Toronto, earned her doctorate in psychology, and became a research assistant to John Bowlby. • Her husband Len accepted a teaching position in Uganda, and Ainsworth used her two years to make careful observations of how babies become attached to their mothers. • Ainsworth was eventually credited by Bowlby with discovering infant’s “secure-base behavior” and the three patterns of attachment well-known in the world of development psychologists today. • Strange Situation: • Ainsworth observed 12 month old infants and their response to a 3- minute period of separation from their mother. • In the first separation, the mother left the baby with a stranger (friendly female graduate student) • In the second, the baby was left alone.
PURPOSE Developed as a means to observe parent-child attachment today, study the patterns of attachment, and observe the consequences of a younger sibling on the degree of attachment between a parent and their child.
Hypotheses Critical Questions: • Will the secure-attachment between mother and child lessen when another child is born into the family? • Will the first child suffer as she adapts to the reality of another baby in the home? • Will this child redirect her need for attachment and affirmation of both a physical and emotional nature to another caretaker, in this case, the father, when prompted by the lessening availability of the mother. • The secure attachment between mother and child #1 will not lessen, but rather, will change and adapt. Perhaps at this point it will become less of a physical need and more of an emotional need. • Child #1 will suffer distress when a new infant is born. However, this distress will be temporary and she will learn to adjust. • Child #1 will look for affirmation and love from her father in a manner that is changed and emphasized since the birth of the child #2. Her “Secure Attachment” towards her father will grow.
Observation Day 1: Infant is 2 weeks old When her mother holds and then nurses new infant Gregory, Cecilia plays pleasantly for the first little while. Soon though, she begins to demand more attention from her mom by talking in an exaggerated tone and volume, becoming more aggressive with her toys, stomping around, and looking to see if she is getting attention. She also approaches baby Gregory multiple times to smother him with kisses. As soon as baby Gregory is passed to me, Cecilia asks to be held and cuddled by her mother.
Later, when her father is present, her behavior is similar, but Cecilia is less demanding of attention and more content with playing quietly. While little Gregory is in his mother’s arms throughout the evening, Cecilia does seem to go to her father more often for attention and continually wants to “snuggle”. Everyday behavior and patterns have been disrupted lately. Most notably, Cecilia’s sleeping has been restless. She is, as her mother tells me, “very sad” at times. Going from excitement over baby Gregory, she sometimes lapses into tears. Her mother interprets these tears as expressing confusion and sadness. Still nursing, she’s been forced to nurse less regularly, but asks to often.
Observation Day 2: Infant is 3 months old Cecilia is at ease and plays contentedly. She is more eager to interact with me and less demanding of her mother’s attention. When baby Gregory is passed to me however, Cecilia takes the opportunity to cuddle with her mom and read a book. When her father arrives, she spends much of the night on his lap and often drags him along to play with her.
Sleep patterns have adjusted better and according to her mother, Cecilia is “less anxious and confused” about Gregory’s presence in the home. Although the transition is still difficult at times, Cecilia seems to go to her dad for consolation and affirmation. There are moments when nobody but mom will satisfy her, but there is a noticeable difference in the amount of time that she spends with her father compared to before Gregory’s birth.
Conclusion • The relationship between Cecilia and her mother has changed. It is evident that her “Secure-Attachment” remains secure and has not diminished, but it has been adjusted. With Gregory in the home, Cecilia has less physical interaction with her mother than before, and she, in turn adapts. • As most small children do with the birth of a younger sibling, Cecilia struggles with the new reality of less attention from her mother. She becomes more accustomed to it by month three and is more peaceful. • Her mother noted especially that as soon as the initial excitement died down, Cecilia did go through a sort of “mourning”. • Cecilia’s attachment to her father has certainly developed and progressed. Before Gregory’s birth she was definitely a “mommy’s little girl”, and so there has been a notable transition. According to her mother, Cecilia automatically goes to her father in a manner that never occurred before.
From my observations I’ve concluded that perhaps the adjustment that a child must go through when a little sibling is born is a good and important aspect of human development. Having formed an intimate “secure-attachment” to their mother, a child is forced to adapt and seek comfort and security in their father. It seems to be a natural aspect of human development and clearly promotes a child’s ability to form human relationships and bonds. Thus we can infer….